Friday, May 11, 2018

The Dragons in My Hair

The dragons in my hair provide
so provident a flame,
that burnishes the sky around
and grants a blazing mane.

The dragons that I keep with me
char all to flaky black,
til close about my head there sits
a dusky midnight, packed.

These dragons light the fires inside,
when passion’s ember wakes,
blistering and crackling with
desires, loves, and hates.

And when the dragons turn their breath
upon what lies around,
I step out coolly from the ashes,
they do not weigh me down.

My dragons, my companions, my
pyrologists sublime,
may bind me or may free me,
but I know that they are mine.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Full

The moon is full tonight, having swallowed all of April.
Swollen with the rays of the sun, it shines in our darkness.
Taking in the light of our eyes, it gives us back our poetry.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Lessons from Cyrano

That honor, beauty, truth are kept inside,
    food for the spirit, when mere food is scarce.
That love and joy can grant the strength to fight
    the battles of the sword or of the heart.
That courage is no less if there be none
    to witness it—and may be all the greater.
To speak the truth with your own voice—even
    if you must use another’s mouth to speak.
That there are many ways a man may ascend
    to Heaven on the wings of his invention.
That the only villains worthy of the fight
    are Falsehood, Compromise, and Cowardice.
To take what comes—the wit, the looks, the pride,
    the good and bad of fortune, the hardest tests
    of friendship and of love, accepting all
    unflinchingly—as duty and as freedom.
And if God sees fit to grant you a large nose,
    to wear it proudly, for you know He knows.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Double Dactyls from the Potterverse

HARRY
Doot-dee-doo, doot-dee-doo,
    Harry J. Potter to
    invincibility
    strangely arrived:
faced with Avada Ke-
    davra, he magically,
    asymptomatically,
    somehow survived.

HERMIONE
My-oh-me, my-oh-me,
    Granger, Hermione
    (“Hogwarts: a History—
    read it!” she’ll say)
always relied upon
    extracurricular
    bibliomania,
    saving the day.

RON
Wheezy-lad, wheezy-lad,
    Ronald B. Weasley had
    hair the most shockingly
    red ever seen.
Brave for the most part, yet
    spiders reduced him to
    pusillanimity,
    turning him green.

SNAPE
Scuzz-a-da, scuzz-a-da,
    Severus Snape was a
    disciplinarian,
    nobody’s friend.
But then in spite of this
    Machiavellian
    attitude he was re-
    deemed in the end.

DUMBLEDORE
Headmaster A. P. B.
    W. Dumbledore,
    (back for a cameo,
    though he was dead)
gave inconclusively
    eschatological
    counsel to Harry in-
    side of his head.

VOLDEMORT
Moldy-wart, moldy-wart,
    Tom Riddle (Voldemort)’s
    thanatophobia
    drove him to sin.
Sadly, his spell over-
    looked a key factor of
    consanguineity…
    Harry will win.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Shakespearean Double Dactyls

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
What-a-trick, what-a-trick,
    Beatrice and Benedick,
    swore not to marry be-
    fore they were dead.
Almost inevitably,
    irritability
    gave way to trickery...
    then they were wed.

AS YOU LIKE IT
Try-to-find, try-to-find,
    ’Lando and Rosalind,
    both of them banished and
    lost in the woods,
but as she’s two levels
    deep in cross-dressing, she’s
    unrealistically
    hidden the goods.

LOVE’S LABOURS LOST
Three foolish lords and King
    Ferdinand, Ferdinand,
    thought they could study with-
    out any girls,
then shifted drastically,
    anti-monastically,
    soon as they saw all those
    lovely French curls.

TWELFTH NIGHT
Fly-awa’, fly-awa’,
    Lucky for Viola
    (loved by the Duchess while
    dressed as a man)
brother Sebastian is
    monozygotically
    willing to fill in the
    best that he can.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Descant

after Emily Dickinson

My life sounds as a Melody,
though often poorly played —
Untuned it seems, and fickle —
Now jocular — now sad

But then a Higher octave comes,
Where sings a sweeter Note,
If I could only listen — close —
More delicate than thought —

This harmony — Exquisite —
Recalls my soul — to be
No mortal dragging on the earth
But singing — in the Sky

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Moth

flutter-
ing in the dark-
ness, trembling, only know-
ing that to find the light is worth
mere death

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

First and Last

Each poem is always the first and
the last ever to be written.
No matter what great deeds your hand
has done, you must needs be smitten

anew with the thought that each poem
is always the first. And the last,
even, shall be fresh, bright as foam
that sprays on rocks a fleeting blast

of joy beyond what you had planned.
Let your love for them tell you what
each poem is. Always the first and
the last thing to do—no shortcut

to that feeling of coming home,
of a complete and unsurpassed
finality, in which each poem
is always the first and the last.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Give and Take

The Lord giveth,
and the Lord taketh away.
And occasionally the Lord hideth things
in extremely sneaky ways.
One might even wonder-eth
whether His memory
is-eth quite what
it used-eth to be.

What the Lord giveth,
I taketh, and what He taketh,
I let-eth Him have back.
And it seems-eth the things I have lost-eth
might-eth perhaps have been-eth
not quite so good for
me to have had-eth
in the first place.

And the things that I have-eth,
(that He gave-eth and I took-eth)
often are-eth
the things that I wanted-eth not.
Or so I thinketh-ed before,
but now they appear-eth
to be-eth what
I needed-eth most.

And so when He hideth
the things that I seeketh,
I’ll stop-eth and thinketh
before I complaineth,
and maybe assumeth
that the Lord knoweth
rather more (don’t laugheth!)
than I do-eth.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Underlined

The pathways of this book are numerous.
Though many times my eyes this way have passed
and not a word they found superfluous,
always I see new shoots that since my last
pilgrimage sprouted, ever-newly greening
and flowering over every faint impression
left by my mind, welcoming me with meaning,
freshness, and a clear grace beyond expression.
I mark my trails with pencil lines, with ink
in different colors every time I pass,
forming a map through words with lines that link
my mind to the bright purity of glass
whose sheen, it’s true, will my own face reflect,
while showing through to Truth, where all the lines connect.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Circumlocution

Let’s say you’ve gone hiking, far out in the wood,
with a chatty old friend. Well, so far, so good.
But suddenly he will remark to you, “Lo!
You stand as Orion, a-stringing his bow,
while unseen another star figure awaits,
who once was Callisto, but now hibernates
in the sky. It is she whom you now have awoken!
I pray that you heed these dire words I have spoken!”

Well, he probably would have done better to shout:
“There’s a bear just behind you! Look out! Look out!”

So you see what I mean by this strong pair of phrases—
Plain speaking is better than long periphrasis.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Ghazal: The Light

Whether knowingly or not, all pursue the light.
Groping, stumbling, our eyes shut, we move through the light.

Creation’s vibration, the word, the wind, the AUM
manifesting one: the cosmic sound, and two: the light.

Around a black hole, space missionaries prepare
a daring expedition to rescue the light.

Though the sun shines equally on good and evil,
ubiquity can never devalue the light.

Morning breaks, in blazing glory, at 2 AM,
illuminating the one who miscued the light.

Dark ignorance can’t be beaten out with a stick,
but vanishes when you bring, O Guru, the light.

My eyes are closed, my spine straight, heart calm and mind still.
Then I see, golden and silver on blue, the light.

Our art is a witness to our aspirations,
thus, Tandava offers this poem into the Light.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

“I Am Dying, Egypt, Dying”

If two Verona teenagers had not
so hastily despaired, then might their all-consuming
love have expanded, til more than they were caught,
with nations, states, and continents entire blooming
fire from their passion. But even then it could not last
in this fashion, no man, no woman can contain
such flame that burns so hot for what is merely mortal.
For all that Cleopatra was called Egypt for her crown,
yet, crouched down at dying Antony’s side, her wide
realm shrinks to a vast expanse of
insignificance, a ludicrous formality in a lover’s last
glance. The land itself, its people, its towns, its trade,
all made to serve as but a name, an endearment,
that, whispered near, meant that he was dying,
Egypt, dying, even as Egypt passed away, vanishing into
an intimate transcendence.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Afterwards

Porcupine petals and daffodil fur—
    I don’t think this is the way things were.
Elephant feathers and tusks on a jay—
    I’m positive they didn’t start that way.
Polkadot suit with a plaid top hat—
    I don’t think zebras should look like that.
Turkeys in tutus and minks in sarongs—
    Something just tells me that’s got to be wrong.

Parties are always a whole lot of fun,
    But there’s so much to tidy up after you’re done!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Chromatic, Or: A Sunset for Schoenberg

Bright center of the sun, a brilliant F
natural, scatters golden F-sharps onto
the sand, where the sea foam, with pale white Cs
and light green Gs, investigates the nooks
and crannies of the tide pool rocks in D.
The gleaming B-flat light on the water reflects
the deep B blue of the sky, and clouds,
withholding G-sharp rain, glow to a red
A where they touch the sun. And in the East,
E-flat will melt into its ultimate,
violet E, while overhead the moon
shines clear its C-sharp light upon the sea.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Efficiency of Ears

My ears have quite a system here,
where each one helps the other,
and if the first one missed a sound,
he’ll just go ask his brother.

But in between the two of them’s
a wild and wooly brain,
and some things that get sent in there
just don’t come out again.

So for those most important sounds,
like rules spoke by your mother,
they skip the middle, go right around,
in one and out the other.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Light Sonnet II: Sunshowers

Sunshowers, liquid sunshine, a blind rain
that can’t see that the sun is out. They say
the devil beats his wife, she cries in pain.
Ghost rain, a lying sun, in which the gray
and one-eyed jackal marries the wolf’s wife,
and lions give birth. This rain falls when a noble
infidel dies. Our double-sided life
looks for itself in everything that’s mobile,
extremes that alternate and then collide,
this light and dark, this dry and wet, remind
us always that we have a choice to see
which end of things we choose, to pick a side,
or bring extremes together, maybe find
the center stillness of the storm, and simply be.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Bad Nana

My name is Bad Nana, just look at me shoot,
I’m a grandma banana, and outlaw to boot.
Abscond and absquatulate, that’s how I steal,
The sheriff can’t hold me—I’m out on appeal.

Taverns and brawls, well, I’ve been in a bunch.
My right hook’s a doozy, and so’s my fruit punch.
Tussle with me and you’ll think it’s uncanny
This granny bananny done whupped your sweet fanny.

Whatever you do then, just don’t call me yellow—
I’ll turn you the shade of my pineapple jello.
I’ll carry on breakin’ the law til I’m dead,
A bandit I’m born, til banana I’m bread.

Back when I was green, terrorizin’ the West,
“Chiquita Bandita” was stitched on my vest.
Now men run and hide from my crocheted bandana,
In fear of Bad Nana, the Grandma Banana.

Bad Nana, courtesy of Curtis Boone.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Return

It’s too cold for April. The honey, seeking its warmer origins,
is crystallizing, reforming structured memories of honeycombs.
I, too, immobilize and turn inward, towards eternal Summer.
When the jar begins to buzz, I know it will soon be full of flowers.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Allegory of the Alligator

Come sit and hear the story of the fearsome alligator—
An instructive allegory (I’ll explain what that means later).
But the first thing that you’ve got to learn is how to recognize one,
So let us our attention turn to the features that comprise one.

They are longer than they’re wide. Don’t believe me? It’s the truth!
And lest you think that I have lied, I’ll furnish you with proof.
We’ll need a box of crayons, a ruler, and some string,
And I’ll show you how to take on this great feat of reckoning.

All down its length and ’cross its width, an alligator’s green
(And green’s the color of envy—it’s what makes a gator mean).
But width it has in just one way, and that’s from side to side,
So now we know that we can say it’s greener than it’s wide.

And next its length you can assess from bottom or from top,
But the green you’ll see is somewhat less, and at the belly stops.
Therefore now some wizard could deduce what you’ve not seen:
That this bayou-dwelling lizard is much longer than it’s green.

Now then there’s this attribute of inequality
Which helps us to compute the reptile’s transitivity,
By which I mean the shape of this here alligator’s hide,
Being longer than it’s green is therefore longer than it’s wide.

But while you’ve been inspectin’ and a-measurin’, it’s true,
He’s gone and et you up of course, ’cause that’s what gators do.
So the moral of this story is—to the best of my belief—
Don’t mess with allegories, and watch out for their teeth!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Warrior Maiden's Lover

[A companion to “The Warrior Maid,”
by Anna Hempstead Branch]

They took me from my mother
When I was yet a child,
My father’s son to make me,
A warrior fierce and wild.

I trained and sparred and struggled,
Each gain was dearly bought,
But as strength grew I realized
Strength wasn’t what I sought.

And on the day of battle
I felt not rage nor fear,
But rode towards a presence,
Now mysteriously near.

I felt a call within me,
As flaming lances shook,
And calling, sought its echo,
And then knew her at a look.

Her joy was blazing laughter,
All else was as the night,
So shone my dearest, fiercest,
Beautiful bright light.

I soared in sudden skies,
All longing laid to rest,
And, soaring, never heeded
Her sword that found my breast.

She rode on, singing, scything,
Her joy was as my own,
And flew I alongside her,
All doubt now overthrown.

And did she feel my presence?
Or made my soul a sound?
For back she wheeled, racing
To my body on the ground.

On still-warm lips she kissed me,
And drew from me her blade,
When a hundred foes surrounded
My shining warrior maid.

What of defeat and capture?
Her laughter rang out clear.
What if our bodies perish,
Now that our souls are near?

So laugh, my love! your captors
Know not how you are free.
As you gave me my freedom,
So I will come to thee.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ghazal: In Time

A poem a day, and I must write them all in time.
My muse I’ll always remember to call in time.

The Golden Age once lost will come around again,
evolving and revolving, a vast sprawl in time.

A new father, singing, can’t hold onto the beat,
a challenge, getting the baby to bawl in time.

On Icarian wings I lift myself alone,
and though I rise in space, I fall in time.

My joints ache when they know that the rain is coming,
and my sinuses tell me when it’s pollen time.

Footmen with whiskers, on a faintly orange coach,
begging Cinderella to leave the ball in time.

Art as Immortality? No shield against the
blazing future, but a frail parasol in time.

Romans meet dinosaurs meet Daleks meet Doctor:
the Tardis is navigating a squall in time.

Those troubles you face, that loom so large before you,
know that even these—it’s true!—will seem small, in time.

Out in the herb garden, after the storm has passed,
we gather scattered rosemary and fallen thyme.

Now Tandava has finished his poem for the day,
sufficiently rhymed, lined, and done, withal, in time.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Light Sonnet

The morning sunlight darts a greeting through
the air, catching the ruby sweetness as
it flies refractingly across the dew
to shimmer through the hanging flower of glass,
then blurring into feathers on the bands
of the half-spread venetian blinds until
it hovers for a heartbeat, and then lands
with the tiniest oscillating thrill,
here on the table, humming silently
and sipping now the gold from a red crescent
pooling of light that touches us and gives
a nectar luminous and iridescent,
inviting us to taste what we can see,
reminding us that light, within us, lives.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Ballet Dancer, Age 10

her eyes
reflect older
memories than her years
more confident grace than her limbs
yet know

her soul
poised expectant
waits to balance spirit
and form again as it has done
before

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Something Else

for Monee

The t-shirt you made me when I was six read:
“Grandma says… I’m something else.”
And so you did, frequently.
Now you, too, are “something else,”
and we visit you in the welcoming hilltop,
in the light movements of the bluebird,
in the support of the watchful oaks,
in the hawks that catch stillness on the wind,
in the sky that holds them, and holds us,
in each other, our songs, our tears and our laughter.
Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,
but spirit springs to something else.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Hippo-posthumous

“You cannot get a hippo!”
That’s what my mother said,
But I told her it’s much cheaper
When your new pet hippo’s dead.

And truly she’s a marvel,
This new friend that I’ve acquired.
We even save on vet bills,
Since already she’s expired.

Her ghostly form moves softly,
She is gentle and benign.
She comes when she is summoned,
(I’ve named her Madeleine).

A hippo can be frightening,
A truly savage beast,
But they mellow out quite nicely
After they’re deceased.

Feeding her is simple,
And goes without a fuss,
She floats on through our breakfast,
But she leaves the food for us.

She comes to get me after school,
And meets me at the gate,
And (but in ways she cannot help)
She’s never ever late.

And if I need a nightlight,
Then she sleeps beside my bed,
Her phantom luminescence
Enlightening my head.

And so my best suggestion
For a pet of whom to boast,
Is a hippo large and friendly—
And preferably a ghost.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Thalia's Age

Thalia’s age is a three-step process:
palm thrust forward,
thumb tucked in,
hand flipped around.
This many.

Are you
five? she asks.
Or six?

Together
we gather my age
in handfuls,
three bunches
and a big,

as someday I
will gather
all my bunches of years,
hold them up,
turn them inward,
and show them
to eternity.
This many.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Answers Without Questions

Hardly ever never, but sometimes always.
Eighty-nine at least, and twice on Sundays.
The square root of fifty, minus your bus fare.
Two cherries, three kumquats, one mango and a bear.
The year 1840 on the West coast of Panama.
201 Main Street, Broadmoor Heights, Omaha.
Every fifth Tuesday, except in April.
A hitherto unknown subspecies of maple.
From under two seconds to up to a month.
If blue, three or four, but the yellow ones once.
Home-grown rhubarb and the juice of an orange.
A little less paisley and a little more fringe.
You’d think so, yes, but it’s not really silver.
Porcupine petals and daffodil fur.
A word that appears in all prayers but no hymns.
Answers without questions, and titles without poems.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Tremolo

Each
note a
life each
life a
thought each
thought a
breath each
breath a
vanished
trembling for-
ever of
instants that
thought turns to
breath turns to
life turns to
notes and are
gone.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Pontius Pilate

What is truth? I knew before today,
Before this man that I have sent to death
Appeared before me. I have no love for Jews,
Nor ever feared them. What had I to fear?
Or what to love? And still I do not know,
But now I find the question troubles me.
And this man, Jew despised by other Jews,
He had no fear of me, and as for love,
I cannot say, and as for truth, he claims
It as his birthright. And were he not in chains
I do not know who I myself would be.
Chained there he stands, as if before my mercy,
Acknowledging my power over him,
As granted from above, and yet I know
He means not Caesar. In his eyes, a kingdom
Further removed from here than I can see,
Beyond my spirit’s compass to perceive.
How can a man judge what he cannot know?
The only guilt I found in him was this:
He gave me leave to name the truth myself,
When I, for the first time, am caught uncertain,
This strange permission reaching farther into
Authority than I have ever dared.
What is truth? Little enough I see.
I knew him for a Jew, for they were Jews
Who brought him to me. I knew him for a king,
For who could not? But all else I disclaim.
And so I ruled, and so I wrote the words
My prisoner permitted me to choose,
Proclaiming and condemning by my hand.
Therefore what I have written, let it stand.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Fools' Day

The situation, it seems, was misread,
but now all our darkness has fled,
for he saw our surprise,
and with twinkling eyes,
said “What? You all thought I was dead?”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ghazal: To Shiva

And as I begin, I bow to Shiva.
May these lines soar, even now, to Shiva.

In darkness, delusion, despair or death,
look, through the light in your brow, to Shiva.

A mountain falling in love with the sky:
Parvati making her vow to Shiva.

Thou male-female, creator-destroyer,
single-duality: Thou Two, Shiva.

I could, like Ganesha, travel the world,
or cut to the chase, and bow to Shiva.

D.I.Y.—Destroy It Yourself, a book
not for dummies, titled: How To Shiva.

Om Namah Shivaya, I bow and sing,
my soul a transcendent shout to Shiva.

The end of life, the end of creation,
we will all return, somehow, to Shiva.

Tandava dancing, this music, this poem—
this life, an offering now, to Shiva.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Whole Sonnet in Two Halves

A hole is nothing but humility,
existence that can only be defined
by absence, and though anything the mind
can conjure it contains, to the degree
it does so it can only leave behind
its full potential emptiness, but when
all else is gone, then it exists again.

A whole is more than the sum of its parts,
it was nothing before the space was there
to hold it, empty, clear expanses where
ideas take form and inspiration starts
to draw to itself that which it would bear,
and that which, being born, will always hold,
behind itself, the presence of its mold.